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Spring Romania trip: A heartbreaking but rewarding experience

Our first volunteer trip to Romania in 2024 set off at on April 5, with 7 volunteers, one film student, and two junior helpers.

It was an exhausting and emotional trip, providing an eye opening insight into the realities of Romanian rescue for first-time volunteers.

The team spent three days at the Curtea de Arges public shelter, assessing the 270 canine residents to make sure they have the best possible chance of adoption.

Tasks included lead testing, videoing, taking lots of pictures for their albums, assessing their personalities, cat testing (shelter cat Layla was not kind to our poor dogs!) and child testing. Rebecca's son Ollie and Kirsty's daughter Ella did a fantastic job of child testing for us, with Ella showing first-time-visitor Ollie the ropes.

The team also did some clipping and brushing, and checked that minor injuries hadn't been overlooked. One of the big successes of the week was removing more than 1,000 ticks from poor old boy Franco, who was in a very sad state when we arrived. Thanks to Annie's grooming skills, he was much more comfortable and far livelier by the time we finished working on him.

In between journeys to and from the shelter, we had several call outs, including collecting a litter of puppies that had been found in the forest by local residents, and rescuing an old boy who had been dumped by the side of the road and left to fend for himself. It's heartbreaking how frequently this happens in Romania.

Shelter managers Tony and Mari never stop - they even rescued a deer on their way home that had been hit by a car. Their unfailing kindness is inspirational and we're so lucky to have them running our shelter.

During the second half of the trip, the team visited Cerasela, who saves dogs from Breasta kill shelter. As with all our rescuers, she is overwhelmed and underfunded, but how can she say no when perfectly healthy dogs are euthanised after just two weeks - the situation is devastating. Thanks to our amazing supporters, we managed to reserve 19 dogs to prevent them from being put to sleep - two of them were saved with just hours to spare.

We also paid a visit to Gabi, who runs a shelter near the Serbian border - her team are amazing with the dogs and it was heartwarming to see how well they interact and how well taken care of the dogs are.

The trip ended with a somber visit to Brigadiru public shelter, which currently houses around 1,200 dogs - just an overwhelming number. We saw row after row of crowded pens, with many terrified occupants cowering in back corners. Some of the dogs have been waiting since 2017 and it's heartbreaking to realise that many won't ever get out. We assessed the dogs we could get to, but however many we manage to rescue will be a drop in the bucket here. It's devastating.

We returned to the UK determined to help as many of the dogs that we met as we can and committed to the charity's spay and neuter mission, which is the only way to prevent the shelter overcrowding that we witnessed, not to mention all the strays running perilously close to the busy roads.

Stay tuned for some of film student Joshua's footage of our trip - he currently has the unenviable job of editing hundreds and hundreds of hours of footage!

We'll keep you updated on the progress of the Breasta dogs - make sure you join our Facebook group for the most recent news.

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